November 12, 2020

By Lapacazo Sandoval

Contributing Writer


“A Cops and Robbers Story” is set to make its world premiere at the virtual DOC NYC film festival (, November 11-19, 2020 directed by Ilinca Calugareau. 

It’s amazing how comfortable this story flows. 

“A Cops and Robbers Story” follows Corey Pegues, a decorated Black officer in the New York Police Department with 21 years under his belt. Then it’s revealed that before he joined the NYPD, he was a crack dealer for one of the cities' most ruthless drug gangs.

You know the saying, that there is a thin line between love and hate? And you know the other saying, that there is a [very] thin line between a police officer and a criminal. Here we take a peek into the exploration of life on both sides of the law.

Pegues does not hold back when explaining why he joined the NYPD after years as a drug dealer.

Looking back (hindsight being 20/20) it makes sense. He was growing up in NYC at the height of the crack epidemic in a drug-infested environment. Death and violence was his every day. He stood at the crossroads and asked himself the hardest question: do I live or do I die? So, he chooses life and he’s equally candid about how he did the seemingly impossible. The doc pulls the audience inside the closed doors of the NYPD, where he became a decorated officer despite red-tape drawbacks and discrimination.

One NYPD officer said it plain enough in that rough-and-tumble New York accent: “No one thought he would make it. He’s too stupid. He’s a nigger.”

We all know (well, most of them) that this country is broken. We all know that police reform is needed. The nation is protesting — demanding fundamental policy reforms because the way people of color are treated is beyond acceptable. It should not be a crime to be a person of color caught in a bad economic situation. To say that “A Cops and Robbers Story” is timely and that it’s a reflection on a broken country is an understatement. 

There is no way that you can divorce Corey’s story from the larger issues and context in which it exists. 

“A Cops and Robbers Story” is brilliantly told combining archival photos; home movies; interviews with family, friends, colleagues, and members of the media; and dramatizations of major points in Pegues’ life. The result is a delicately layered examination of a man who stood in the belly of the beast and took apart those trickly parts of what is sold as the American dream.

Things got real for him after viewing a videotape of his old crew being carefully followed and reviewed by the NYPD. “I’m just praying, praying that my picture doesn’t pop up there on that flow chart while I’m training these guys,” says a smiling Pegues. The cops watching the tape didn’t have a clue about his connection.

There are enough life lessons in “A Cops and Robbers Story”

to help someone get and stay on the right road. And the director treats the audience will respect.

“Yes, we did a lot of bad stuff,” confesses one of Pegues’ friends. 

Here, the director allows the story to unfold without forming an opinion. 

Pegues did a ghost. He enrolled in the military. No one knew. Not his family and now his crew.

Two weeks later the FEDs took down his crew. Everyone but Pegues went to jail.

After he left the military he went into the Police Academy. He didn’t lie on his application. His friends teased “How is Mr. Hood rat going to be a cop?”

And once inside Pegues the Police department he kept rising despite multiple internal investigations where they alleged he was connected with known felons.

Nothing stopped him. He rose from Sergent to Loutientt, to Captain to Deputy Inspector. Despite his stripes, Pegues could not keep his mouth shut about the internal abuse of power by police. By telling the truth, he got in trouble with more internal investigations directed his way.

He retired in 2013 after a back injury sustained at work, and he retired with good graces. He wasn’t happy with being retired. He wanted to become a Police Chief.

On the Combat Jack podcast — Pegues told his story. The whole story. Pegues said it plain: “I mean I just jumped off the roof.” He hid his life for 21 years and he refused to stay silent. He felt that he could not stay silent. And then everything went sideways.

Everyone went crazy including his street friends. His former police partner got calls and emails asking — “what’s your nigger partner doing?”

What does Pegues want now? Why release “A Cops and Robbers Story” now?

Pegues said in his own statement. “I pulled myself up from my bootstraps and made something out of myself, even with this crazy stuff around me. And never did I turn my back or turn a bad eye to the people who were still doing it. I still go to my same neighborhood, some people are in jail, some are home, some are strung out on drugs and I still hug them, kiss them, say what’s going on and they’re proud of me. And I gave Ilinca so much footage, some of that stuff I haven’t seen for years. It’s going to be an eye-opener for people. I’m very proud of the work.”

“A Cops and Robbers Story” is produced by Mara Adina, and executive produced by Brenda Robinson, Julie Parker Benello, Nion McEvoy, Erika Olde, John Battsek, Jonathan Stanners, and Abbas Nokhasteh.

Category: Arts & Culture